At the end of the day we have seen some of the best laid out, most feature packed and best overclocking boards today, and none have disappointed too much.
Thoughts on MSI
MSI has designed a very good overclocking board with heaps of features. It has a clean layout with just a few flaws. First you only get 5 PCI slots and a rather useless riser slot, useful for OEM, but not the hardcore user. Overclocking could do with a few improvements, such as increasing the Vcore limit for Northwood to 1.85v. This would allow better overclocking, and allowing more voltages on the AGP and DDR would also help. Performance-wise, the board is without peer, it was the fastest board in the pack.
Thoughts on Gigabyte
Gigabyte have ultimately the best designed board I have ever seen with only a few niggles getting in the way. First off, the placement of the power connectors does tend to inhibit the cooling of the CPU since the cables have to come over the processor. Secondly, the IRQ layouts in the BIOS tend to put just about all of the peripherals onto one IRQ address and it tends to slow up the system, especially when using networking. Overclocking this board is the best of the lot with a super-high bus score. It's the fastest i845D board we have seen.
Thoughts on Soyo
This being my first look at Soyo, and Soyo being a younger company than the other two big boys, they have done a spectacular job.
Feature-wise, the board is packed well with just one disappointment; no USB 2.0. This would have made it the ultimate board ever in terms of features. Overclocking-wise it lacks the ability to hit those high bus speeds we have seen the MSI and Gigabyte do, but it still makes a good impression.
When all is said and done, MSI has won the race with Gigabyte in a close second and Soyo coming in third. We would recommend all these boards in a heartbeat, depends on what you are looking for.
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